European Union support enables POETCom to build partnerships with organic certification bodies

Caption: The ‘Organic Pasifika’ mark will identify products from the region certified through the new export scheme.

Friday 20 September 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva.  Through the activities of the European Union-funded Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT) project, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) on behalf of the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) and three internationally-accredited organic certification bodies with the aim of promoting organic agriculture in the Pacific region through the development of organic export certification services.

The selected certification partners are: BioAgriCert; BioGro New Zealand (BioGro); and National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA).

Over the next three years, the MOU will guide the relationship between POETCom and the certification partners in their provision of certification services in the region. The partnership will provide, for the first time, an opportunity for Pacific organic producers to export under their own Pacific Organic Standard (POS). This development, along with the ‘Organic Pasifika’ mark that these products will carry will help consumers in export markets to become aware of and have access to organic products from the Pacific.

A review undertaken by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) identified the lack of a coordinated approach and the cost of certification, as major obstacles to the development of organic agriculture in the Pacific. From that time, organic producers in the Pacific have been working to address these constraints through the development of the POS and the formation of POETCom.

POETCom Coordinator, Karen Mapusua noted that the export certification scheme and regional organic mark are major steps forward for organic growers in the region.

‘These are important pillars of our Pacific Organic Guarantee Scheme that will ensure consumers buying organic products from the Pacific can have trust in the organic integrity of the product and, at the same time, know that what they buy is uniquely Pacific – supporting Pacific growers and contributing to sustaining our pristine Pacific environments,’ Ms Mapusua stated.    

The Chief Executive Officer for BioGro, Dr Michelle Glogau, said that they are pleased to have formed a partnership with POETCom to certify Pacific growers, as this will assist in the development and growth of organics in the Pacific region.

‘One of the reasons BioGro was established in New Zealand 30 years ago was to develop organic standards which reflect the needs of local producers and consumers. The collaboration with POETcom is an extension of that concept. It recognises the importance of local ways of production and supports the POS acknowledged by IFOAM as equivalent to other international organic standards,’ she added.

The partnership will enable organic products from the Pacific to be able to access international markets through the well-recognised certification pathways established by the certification partners.

‘As an independent organic certifier (BioGro), our own auditors will audit Pacific growers against the Pacific Organic Standard. This will give growers access to local and non-regulated markets. To access regulated markets, Pacific growers can be certified to our internationally-accredited programmes,’ said Dr Glogau.

In moving forward, she explained that BioGro would like to help Pacific producers develop their own auditing personnel so that they can audit to BioGro’s organic programmes, including the POS.

The Board of Managers for certification partners, BioAgriCert are happy and proud to be formally engaged with the Pacific organic movement.

‘We are enthusiastic to promote the Pacific image. Being very active in Asia and America, we will now contribute to the emergence of this region which has the essential values that the world needs to boost its organic development. We are already very experienced in certifying more than organics but also tourism activities, such as spas, handcrafts from natural fibres and we believe our new relationship with POETCom will be beneficial in promoting the Pacific to the world,’ said Riccardo Cozzo, Chief Executive Officer of BioAgriCert.

POETCom is the peak organics body for the Pacific region, and its secretariat is based at SPC with funding support from the European Union-funded IACT project.

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